Factors Influencing Formulation Of Strategic Plans Management Essay

The issue of organisational direction for organisations worldwide has generated growing interest in the recent past. As a result, formation of strategic plan by many organisations has attracted growing concerns due to environmental pursuit of organisational growth and survival in the long run. This study explores the link between formulation of strategic plans with staff employee motivation, availability of funds, support by top school leadership, government policy and employee knowhow. The paper specifically analyses the factors that influence the formulation of strategic plans in secondary schools in Embu North district, Embu county Kenya. The study was carried out among all the 24 Principals, 24 Chairpersons of Board of Governors and 24 Chairpersons of Parents Teachers Association all of the 24 secondary schools in Embu North district, Embu County, Kenya. Data was collected primarily through structured questionnaire and analysed using spearman’s rank correlation analysis to establish relationship among the variables. The findings indicated that employee motivation, availability of funds, support by top school leadership and employee skills had a positive correlation while government policy had a negative correlation with formulation of strategic plans in secondary schools in Embu North district

Keywords: Formulation of Strategic Plan, Employee Motivation, Availability of Funds, Support by Top School Leadership, Government Policy and Employee Know how

1.0 Introduction

A strategic plan is a set of processes undertaken in order to develop a range of strategies that will contribute to achieving the organizational direction (Tapinos, et al., 2005). This therefore calls for formulating a coherent document which will guide the efforts of all the stakeholders, outline what the organization is trying to achieve and how it intends to achieve it. Strategies can be formulated in three levels i.e. corporate, business and functional level. At corporate level strategies are formulated by the top level management or the board of directors (Yabs, 2010). At business level strategies are formulated by middle level managers or heads of various departments in the firm e.g. human resource manager, marketing manager’s production manager among others (Yabs, 2010). Strategy formulation at functional level is done by first line managers or supervisors (Sababu, 2007).

In a school situation, at corporate level the long term decisions and strategies are made by the Board of Governors under the advice of the Principal. Heads of departments make decisions on business level strategies, offer leadership and play a key role in formulation of strategic plans in their institutions. Parents and teachers being key stakeholders present their interests through the Parents Teachers Association. Before strategy formulation is done, the management must analyse the environment using tools such as SWOT analysis, PESTEL analysis, Porters five forces model, portfolio analysis competitor analysis, customer analysis, gap analysis among others (Khattab and Anchor, 2011).

Once the environment has been analysed using the appropriate tools, the management is able to craft or redefine the organisations vision, mission and organisational values. It is followed by identifying the critical issues to be addressed which may include academic performance, infrastructure, funds, student and staff discipline, staffing and co-curricular activities among others. Giles (1995), Aldehyyat et al, (2011) and Ngware et al, (2006) have pointed out that a school that formulates and implements strategic plan derives benefits such as having negotiated and agreed clear goals and objectives, communication of the set goals to various stake holders, providing a base upon which progress can be measured, building strong and functional teams in management staff who have clear vision on how the school will be in future, providing the school management with new ideas which can steer the school to greater heights of excellence if implemented and lastly commits the school funds to a well organised and coherent development agenda.

Schools have several objectives to fulfil in line with the national and international goals to education. Kenya is one of the countries which signed the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and one of the goals is Education For All (EFA) by year 2015 (Sinyolo, 2007). The achievement of these goals will depend on how well education programmes are planned and implemented. This calls for preparation of a national education strategic plan upon which schools should base their strategic plans. The government regularly formulates and implements strategic plans with the most recent one covering year 2006-2011 but many schools have not followed suit.

Some governments have made it mandatory for schools to formulate strategic plans in line with the national strategic plan for example in Australia, the government has gone a step ahead and made a guideline of what schools should include in their strategic plan (State of Victoria, 2010). The United Kingdom government passed the 1988 Education Reform Act which gave the responsibility of planning to schools (Giles, 1995). Bell (2002) records that in 1989, the UK government put emphasis on the staff to develop their own priorities and come up with strategies to achieve them. Later the strategic plans were used by the government as focal points for national inspection framework. This means that the teachers were required to show their achievements during routine inspections using parameters they had set in the strategic plans. Bell (2002) reports that currently the government in the UK has come up with a system of deriving targets for schools to achieve from the national targets set for different categories of schools. The Government of Kenya should come up with a similar system of guiding schools on what they need to include in their strategic plans. In addition Quality Assurance and Standards Officers of the Ministry of Education can train school stakeholders on formulating strategic plans.

Kenyan government has also made it compulsory for government agencies and ministries to make periodic strategic plans (GoK, 2006). In Kenya, the education Act (Cap 211), does not clearly show whether schools should formulate strategic plans and as a result many schools have not followed suit. Literature review has attributed this problem to availability of funds (Allio, 2005; Recklies, 2008), motivation of the staff (Recklies, 2008), support by top school leadership (Recklies, 2008), employee’s know-how (Jackson, 2005; Drucker, 2004) and government policy (Recklies, 2008).

Secondary education in Kenya has undergone numerous changes which have always necessitated the need for continuous planning. After independence the primary aim for secondary education was to fight disease, poverty and ignorance. GoK, (2005) has outlined the steps taken to solve the problem of ignorance through various commissions and task forces. These were Ominde (1964) which focused on fostering national unity and creating sufficient human capital; Gachathi Report (1976) focused on redefining Kenya’s education polices and objectives; Mackay Report (1981) recommended removal of the Advanced level (A- level) of secondary education and establishment of 8.4.4 system of education; Kamunge Report of 1988 focused on improving education, financing, quality and relevance and finally Koech Report (2000) which recommended TIQET – Totally integrated quality education and training. Recent government policy initiatives have focused on attainment of Education for all (EFA) in Kenya which led to declaration of Free Secondary Education (FSE) in 2008. All these changes require continuous planning of secondary education so as to realize the government objectives in education.

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Test of hypothesis

Employee motivation has statistically significant relationship with formulation of school strategic plans

Availability of funds has statistically significant relationship with formulation of school strategic plans

Top school leadership has statistically significant relationship with formulation of school strategic plans

Government policy has statistically significant relationship with formulation of school strategic plans

Employee know how has statistically significant relationship with formulation of school strategic plans

2.0 Overview of literature

Many scholars agree that a strategic plan needs to be simple, realistic and neither too ambitious nor insufficiently demanding (Leggate & Thompson, 1997;Aldehyyat et al., 2011). It should allow some degree of flexibility to fit with the changing environment. Mintzberg (1994) adds another perspective by highlighting the danger of planning when he argues that planning has its danger in that it assumes the world will stop while managers wait to plan and implement strategies. This explains why a strategic plan should be made in a way that it is flexible to changes in the environment.

While most of the literature available on strategic management deals with the business world and little on education sector, some parallels can be drawn between the business sector and education. Tsiakkiros & Pasiardis (2002) gave the similarities as follows. First, the two try to make a profit but type of profit differs in both; Two, both have limited resources yet they have unlimited needs and must allocate resources after putting their needs in a sequence of priority; Three, both compete for clients and resources; Last, both have clients who demand for more satisfaction. The schools get resources from government, parents, donors and other income generating projects to implement the projects they identify and the resources they get is seldom enough.

Perrot (1996) argued that if the public sector is to meet their challenges, they must look up to private sector for guidance. The private sector has benefited in formulating strategic plans and schools can enjoy the same benefits. Wachira (2009), Giles (1995); Aldehayyat et al. (2011) and Ngware et al. (2006) have discussed some benefits of strategic plan to a school as follows:

First, the school develops clear vision, mission, goals and objectives, which are agreed by Board of Governors in full, teachers, parents and students. The target areas are put in a clear way and the means to achieve them. Secondly, it helps to communicate the set goals to all members and stakeholders. It is therefore necessary to display the motto, vision and mission goals and objective in conspicuous places where all the members of the organisation can see them. A good strategic plan should be well understood by all stakeholders. In some situations, it may be necessary to display the motto, in a conspicuous place where new members can see them.

Thirdly, it provides a base upon which progress can be measured. This is important for monitoring and evaluation since key action areas are measured on predetermined periods. Four, it helps to build strong teams in management staff who have a clear vision of how the school will be in future. This means that change of management cannot interfere with the priorities set out. Five, it opens the school management to new ideas which if implemented, can steer the school into greater heights of excellence. Last, it commits the school funds to a well-organized and coherent development agenda. This protects the school from having many incomplete projects, dilapidated infrastructure and misplaced priorities.

Ngware et al., 2006 proposes that for teachers to provide quality education they must be well qualified and motivated. Bell (2002) proposes that teachers must be proactive and seek to influence the external environment and deploy resources to influence it. This may call for teachers to formulate strategies which may in a way increase their own work-load. A lowly motivated staff may avoid such strategies or absent themselves during the time of strategy formulation. Absenteeism has theoretical basis from Herzberg theory (1966) and worker’s- adjustment- to equilibrium strategy (Allen, 1981). According to Herzberg, absenteeism may be linked to job dissatisfaction with terms and conditions of employment such as supervision, organizational policies, salary, job security, interpersonal relationship and physical environment.

Ngware et al (2006) argues that if teachers are taken for training to increase their skills they will be motivated if they are given a chance to put the skills to practice and in addition they feel part of the decision making process when allowed to sit in committees to formulate the strategic plans. Funds should also be available to train the teams so that each can know the responsibilities and expectations (Jackson, 2005). Funds are critical during the data collection stage when collection of information from the environment is required. It may involve traveling, holding meetings, or publishing tools for communications such as pamphlets and fliers. Upon formulation, money is required for implementation. A plan should not be formulated if it cannot be implemented. Reklies (2008) is of the opinion that only the programs with the highest returns should be funded after the key action areas have been identified. In a secondary school, the money comes from the government funding/ government grant, parents’ contribution, income-generating projects within the school, donors, and bursary.

The top school leadership in a school includes the Board of Governors, Parents Teachers Association and the school Principal. They give leadership and vision to the organization. The Principal has for a long time been expected to offer leadership on matters of quality improvement in schools (Ngware et al., 2006). This view has however been challenged by some scholars. Bell (2002) is of the opinion that a school principal cannot offer leadership on school vision since it is a collective responsibility of all stakeholders. He further argues that successful planning must include the three levels of management in the school. A study done by Leggate & Thompson (1997) found that the Principal was regarded as key player in strategy formulation. A contradiction is revealed when Giles (1995) found out that the strategic planning process was highly dominated by principals and their deputies. It can be said that although the Principals are instrumental in leading the process, they need the input of all the stakeholders.

Another perspective of support by top management is looking at the period that they have stayed in the school. If a person has stayed as a Principal in a school for a long time, he/ she can have the opportunity of engaging the others to formulate the strategic plan. Leggate & Thompson (1997) are of the opinion that if a person only works in a school for a very short period, he may not have an impact in formulating the strategic plan. Transfers by the government from one school to the other bring about this challenge. The top management should be able to convince the parents on the rationale for spending money to formulate a strategic plan since they have the duty to safeguard public interest and give guidance to the stakeholders (Ngware et al., 2006).

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The government has a critical role to play in strategy formulation. It is the government that formulates the school curriculum and the broader education policy. Currently, the government is in the process of implementing the strategic plan for education covering year 2006- 2011. The ministry’s strategic plan aforementioned is silent on efforts the government is taking to encourage secondary schools in the country to formulate strategic plans. In some countries, the government has made it mandatory for schools to formulate strategic plans. For example in Australia, the government has made a guideline of what schools should include in their strategic plan (State of Victoria, 2010).

Employee’s know-how is useful in formulation of strategic plans. If an organisation does not have them internally, they are forced to outsource. Drucker (2004), states that the first managerial skill is the making of effective decisions. These decisions help one to know what strategic plan should contain. Dandira (2011a) is of the opinion that the firm must appoint an executive who is able to have a vision and a dream beyond everybody in the organization, and who is driven by results.

For the organization to be able to formulate strategies effectively, they need to posses effective communication skills, interpersonal skills, professional skills and ability to scan an environment to be able to predict future events. Effective communication skills are necessary to for the leader to pass down the vision to all the employees and relevant stake holders. Dandira (2011a) is of the opinion that communication should cascade from top to bottom of the firm so that all employees are kept in the light on how the strategic plan is being conceived and what is required of them. This means that managers should not hold back any information in their possession which can be helpful in strategic planning. The professional skills are necessary in strategic planning.

Sherman, Rowley and Armandi (2007) notes that a common problem experienced in Africa is that people are appointed to positions to which they have no matching professional ability. They cite a case where a former army general (who is used to autocratic style of leadership) is appointed to a position of a university administrator (which requires democratic style of leadership). This leads to a mismatch between the personalities chosen with the strategies that can work well for the organization. This problem however may not be very acute in the Kenyan schools since the Principals are appointed from the professionally trained teachers. What may be questionable is whether the appointed principals are people with a vision to propel the school.

Employers are required to treat their employees as internal customers since they give back feedback. Dandira (2011b) notes that some board of directors and senior managers go for retreats to make strategic plans without involving their employees. The lower cadre employees may feel left out in formulation and hence they fail to implement the plan effectively. Effective interpersonal skills from top management enable them to involve all the stakeholders to participate actively in the whole process of strategic plan formulation. Continuous learning is very important for any person who wishes to get the skills to scan the environment. Hamid (2008) notes that different people have different ways of acquiring knowledge; some prefer scanning the environment, others reading from the books and internet and others from discussing with their peers. To be able to formulate strategic plans effectively, today’s environment requires business minded and innovative employees who after studying environment, can be able to develop strategies that are customer focused. Public secondary schools are not exceptional from profit making bodies. They need to focus on customer who is the learner. Sherman et al. (2007) notes that transformational leaders should empower employees and instil a sense of commitment and engagement.

3.0 Research methodology

Descriptive research design was employed in the study to determine the relationship between the independent and dependent variables and to ascertain any association between those variables. Kombo and Tromp (2006) recommend the use of this design when investigating peoples’ attitudes and views as they are, without manipulating the variables. In addition Mugenda and Mugenda (2003) asserts that descriptive survey design helps a researcher to gather, summarise, present and interpret information for the purpose of clarification. The statistical method used for research analysis was mainly spearman rank correlation technique.

The target population for the study was 24 public secondary schools in Embu North District with a total number of 360 members i.e. 24 principals, 96 Parent Teachers Association members and 240 Board of Governors members (D.E.O’s office, Embu North District, 2011). Since school Strategic plan formulation is a corporate level decision, only the top school managers have the pertinent information required. Mugenda and Mugenda (2003) propose that purposive sampling which is a non- probability sampling technique can be used where the subjects are hand picked because they possess the required characteristics or data. The researcher conducted a census study of the 24 public secondary schools in Embu North District where all the 24 principals, 24 Board of Governors chairpersons and 24 Parent Teachers Association chairpersons were selected. The study comprised of the 24 principals and purposive sampling where 24 Board of Governors Chairpersons and 24 Parent Teachers Association Chairpersons were selected. Kombo and Tromp (2006) assert that the use of this sampling technique lies in selecting information rich respondents for in-depth analysis of the issues being discussed. These are the stakeholders involved in making the decision on strategy formulation and they can only invite the other stakeholders such as teachers support staff, parents and local community to give their input.

Data was collected from both primary and secondary sources. Primary data was collected through administration of a structured questionnaire while secondary data was collected from publications such as journals, books, official documents from the schools and DEO’s office, and relevant internet sites. Pilot study was done in two schools within the district. This was to help clarify and remove questions that were ambiguous or not clear. Borg and Gall (1989) assert that content validity of an instrument is improved through expert judgement and as such the researcher sought assistance of the university supervisor to find out whether the instruments measured what they intended to measure. The study generated both qualitative and quantitative data which was analysed using Spearman’s Rank correlation analysis to find out the relationship between dependent and independent variables.

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4.0 Discussion of findings

Spearman’s Rank Correlation analysis was used because measures the strength of a relationship between paired observations on the basis of their ranks within their respective samples. The Spearman’s rank correlation was used by the researcher to test the strength the relationship between formulation of school strategic plans being the dependent variable and the independent variables that is; employee motivation, availability of funds, support by top school leadership, government policy and employee know how. The researcher wanted to test the strength of the relationship between the dependent and independent variables so as to provide useful information to school management for planning purposes. Table 4.1 below shows the correlation coefficients (rho) between formulation of school strategic plans and the independent variables under study.

The analysed results of the study using Spearman’s rank correlation analysis is given on table 4.1 on page 7

Table 4.1: Results of Spearman’s Rank correlation

Correlations

Formulation of School Strategic Plan

Employee Motivation

Availability of funds

Support by top school leadership

Government Policy

Employee Know how

Spearman’s rho

Formulation of School Strategic Plan

Correlation Coefficient

1.000

.145

.030

.090

.243*

.348**

N

72

72

72

72

72

72

Employee Motivation

Correlation Coefficient

.145

1.000

-.236*

-.008

-.119

.294**

N

72

72

72

72

72

72

Availability of funds

Correlation Coefficient

.030

-.236*

1.000

.387**

-.128

-.045

N

72

72

72

72

72

72

Support by top school leadership

Correlation Coefficient

.090

-.008

.387**

1.000

-.076

-.009

N

72

72

72

72

72

72

Government Policy

Correlation Coefficient

.243*

.119

.128

.076

1.000

.103

N

72

72

72

72

72

72

Employee Know how

Correlation Coefficient

.348**

.294**

-.045

-.009

.103

1.000

N

72

72

72

72

72

72

*. Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (1-tailed).

**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (1-tailed).

Source: (Survey data, 2011)

The study revealed that there was a significant relationship between the availability of funds and formulation of school strategic plans as evidenced by a correlation coefficient (r) of 0.3 as shown in table 4.1.Therefore the hypothesis that there is significant relationship between availability of funds and formulation of school strategic plans was found to be true. This is in line with a study done by Jackson (2005) who asserted that funds should be available to train teams so that each can know its responsibilities and expectations. Further, Recklies (2008) is of the opinion that only the programmes that have the highest returns should be funded after the key action areas have been identified. The management should therefore ensure they partner with many stake holders in attempt to solicit for funds which are critical in formulation of school strategic plans for example hiring of experts, motivating and training of employees among others.

It was revealed that there is a significant relationship between government policy and formulation of school strategic plans as evidenced by correlation coefficient (r) of 0.243 as shown in table 4.1. Therefore the hypothesis that there is statistically significant relationship between government policy and formulation of school strategic plans was found to be true. This shows that the Ministry of Education should develop programmes of creating awareness in public secondary school in Embu North District by emphasising the importance of formulating school strategic plans and providing clear policy guidelines on what should be included in the school strategic plans. This has been tried and it has worked in countries like Australia (State of Victoria, 2010). In addition it is important for the government to put in place stringent measures to ensure all schools adhere to the policy guidelines.

The study showed that there is significant relationship between employee knowhow and formulation of school strategic plan as evidenced by a correlation coefficient (r) of o.348 as shown in table 4.1. Therefore the hypothesis that there is statistically significant relationship between employee knowhow and formulation of school strategic plans was found to be true. This observation concurs with a study done by Sherman et al. (2007) which showed that transformational leaders should empower employees to instil a sense of commitment and engagement. The relationship implies that there is need to impart appropriate skills to employees by way of training programmes which may either be on the job or off job. The training should include courses that provide employees with skills of formulating and implementing school strategic plans. The study revealed that there was no statistically significant relationship on two variables that is employee motivation and top school leadership with formulation of school strategic plans as the coefficient (r) were 0.145 and 0.09 respectively.

5.0 Conclusion and implications

The purpose of the study was to analyse the factors that influence formulation of strategic plans in secondary schools in Embu North district, Embu County, Kenya. Review of the literature provided a strong evidence of relationship between the study variables. Empirical review showed that in order for a school to formulate strategic plan the management should put in place measures to solicit for the required funds, understand the various government policies with regard to strategic plan formulation and train employees to provide required skills. It can be concluded that availability of fund, government policy and employee know how significantly influence formulation of school strategic plan in secondary schools in Embu North district. Therefore it can be recommended that, the Ministry of Education should carry out aggressive awareness programmes to sensitise key school stakeholders on the importance of preparing and implementing school strategic plans effectively and provide clear guidelines on what should be included in school strategic plans, consider organizing joint training for a block of schools to educate the school stakeholders on the process of school strategic plans in order to solve the problem of financial constrains faced by many secondary schools. Finally the study also recommends that future studies should be directed towards investigating effect of organizational culture on formulation of school strategic plans in secondary schools, effect of awareness programmes carried out by Ministry of Education officials on formulation of strategic plans and finally factors influencing formulation of strategic plans in public primary schools in Embu North district.

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